Performing at an Art for the Heart event in Windhoek, Namibia. Photo: Supplied

Adapt or go under: running a student business during the pandemic

By Mardene van Schalkwyk

The past year has been challenging, but Stellenbosch University (SU) student entrepreneurs have proven their resilience. Jacobina Kalunduka, a third-year BAcc student, and Katja Marsiglia, a second-year BA (Visual Arts) student, are two such business owners. 

“Our company was founded in 2020 with the sole purpose of hosting events centred around the arts,” said Kalunduka about Art for the Heart (AFTH), the business she co-owns with Nomagugu Moyo, a first-year Economics and Management Sciences student.

“When the pandemic hit, we didn’t make money for a long time due to the fact that we were not allowed to host events. This made us rethink our whole business structure. The past year grew my abilities as an entrepreneur,” said Kalunduka.

Now, AFTH sells self-care packages tailored to students’ needs. The company kept working towards their goal to connect lesser-known creatives with their target market by launching a YouTube channel during the lockdown. Until COVID-19 regulations allow AFTH to operate in Stellenbosch, they host events from Windhoek, Namibia.

For Marsiglia, starting a business during the pandemic was a happy accident. Before the pandemic, Marsiglia was a waitress at a high-end restaurant in the V&A Waterfront. With the emergence of COVID-19, she lost her job and was pushed to find new ways of making an income.

“It started when my plumber saw some of my art and requested a piece. After that, I started posting my art. People were interested in buying, which was actually completely unexpected. It wasn’t planned at all,” said Marsiglia. Her art store, known on Instagram as @kat.makesart, took off in January.

“I think that people are consuming more fashion, clothes and interior items than before because they are spending less money on social activities. It makes sense to invest in home décor because that is where we are spending the majority of our time now,” said Marsiglia. Overall, the pandemic challenged many businesses, but the opposite may have come true for Marsiglia.

If you are thinking of starting a business endeavour, take Marsiglia’s advice, “Having a student business is hard work but is easier if it’s something you’re passionate about.”

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